Made during her bombshell period, Virginia Madsen is perfectly cast as an elusive femme fatale in Gotham (1988), a made-for-television movie for the Showtime Channel and that was part of a run of sexy roles in the late 1980s that also included Slam Dance (1987), and into 1990s with The Hot Spot (1990) and forgettable erotic thrillers such as Caroline at Midnight (1994) and Blue Tiger (1994). Fortunately, this one stars Tommy Lee Jones and whose angle is a neo-noir fused with a ghost story.
“You ever find yourself walking down a dark street, you think you hear footsteps coming up slowly, somebody just out of sight?” This question kickstarts the story as Charles Rand (Colin Bruce) asks down-on-his-luck private investigator Eddie Mallard (Jones) to find his wife Rachel (Madsen) and tell her to leave him alone. The only problem: she’s been dead for over ten years. Rand offers Mallard a lot of money to take the case, which he accepts even though, as he confesses to his friend Tim (Kevin Jarre) later on, he fears that he’s feeding into this man’s delusions.
Eddie humors his client and his odd ramblings about his wife (“She lusts for daylight. She wants power in the daylight.”). The man is truly haunted by her death and apparent resurrection and this intrigues Eddie – that and the hefty paycheck. One day, Charles spots Rachel across the street and asks Eddie to go over and talk to her. With her long white gloves, vintage hat tilted at just the right angle and retro black dress, Rachel looks like she stepped right out of a 1940s film noir. Of course, she denies knowing Charles and humors Eddie by going out for a drink with him where she explains that she is a woman of expensive tastes.
Rachel shows up at Eddie’s office and apologizes for coming on so strong the other day and takes him out for a bite to eat as a way of apologizing. She comes across as a slightly sad, lonely wealthy lady. He’s intrigued by her stunning looks and enigmatic past. Their paths cross again as she wanders out of the smoke on a deserted city street one night. The deeper he goes into the case the more he realizes it’s not as simple as it seems and like most noirs he finds himself drawn into an increasingly complex web with Rachel at its center. Is she really the deceased wife or is this merely the delusions of a crazy man?
Tommy Lee Jones is well cast as a world-weary gumshoe who thinks he knows all the angles until he takes on this case and becomes entangled in Rachel’s web. Like Rachel, Eddie undergoes his own transformation and Jones does an excellent job of conveying a man who has seen it all to one obsessed with a woman that tears his life apart.